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Spiral Dynamics

Don E. Beck
Born 1937
Nationality American
Fields Spiral Dynamics, Systems Thinking
Known for Spiral Dynamics Integral
Influences Clare W. Graves, Muzafer Sherif

Don Edward Beck is a teacher, geopolitical advisor, and theorist focusing on applications of large scale psychology, including sociocultural systems. He is the co-author of the "Spiral Dynamics" theory, an evolutionary human development model. He spent many years adapting the work of his mentor and colleague, developmental psychologist Clare W. Graves, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Union College in New York.


  • Theory development 1
  • Influences 2
  • Geopolitical applications 3
  • Leadership 4
  • Education and academic work 5
  • Additional books, audio, video, publications 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Theory development

Beck first met Graves in 1975 and worked with him closely until his death in 1986. Graves had published his theory[1] of human development in 1974, a "bio-psycho-social systems" framework of value systems as applied to human sociocultural evolution which posits that the psychology of the mature human being transitions from a current level of cultural existence based on current life conditions to a more complex level in response to (or cope with) changes in existential reality. Graves's model demonstrates the dual nature human social emergence with change states between communal/collective value systems (sacrifice self) and individualistic (express self) value systems.

According to the 1974 Futurist biography of Graves, he began decades of experimentation and research starting in 1952. In The Futurist article, Graves classified a total of eight levels of increasingly complex human value systems consisting of a hierarchically ordered, always-open-to-change set of identifiable world views, preferences, and purposes.[2] Through these value systems, groups and cultures structure their societies and individuals integrate within them. Each distinct set of values is developed as a response to solving the problems of the previous system. Changes between states may occur incrementally (first order change) or in a sudden breakthrough (second order change).

The original 1974 publication, "Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap" (The Futurist, pp. 72–87) defined the overall theory and the value systems within it. Each system may express a healthy or unhealthy manifestation of its values, as defined by Graves:

The First Tier systems were grouped by nature of their narrow perspective as "subsistence levels" (para. 4), each aligns with a specific world view that rejects the prior systems and seeks to preserve its own status quo. The differences between communal/collective and individualistic value systems, and the inability of First Tier systems to recognize the strengths or pathologies of other world views, helps to explain social conflict in the world today (para. 7).

According to Graves, the move to Second Tier thinking requires a "leap" in perspective. At Second Tier - the first 'being level', society recognizes a responsibility for facilitating the health of each value system on First Tier. The goal is not expediting emergence but the result is, when healthy, each First Tier system will naturally progress toward Second Tier.

From Graves' work, Beck and his colleague, Cristopher Cowan, developed the theory further and presented a structured evolutionary model of adaptive intelligence called Spiral Dynamics. Beck and Cowan first published their construct in Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change (Exploring the New Science of Memetics) (1996).[3] Spiral Dynamics theory spawned much discussion and (sometimes tangential) integration of concepts by other theorists, such as Ken Wilber.[4][5]


Graves' original theory compared a number of psychological and behavioral constructs such as Max Weber, Abraham Maslow, and Jane Loevinger.[6] Beck and Cowan's Spiral Dynamics theory was also influenced by three additional innovations:

  • Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins proposed a model of cultural information transfer in which ideas (memes), such as patterns of behavior, habits and beliefs, proliferate in a way similar to biological genes, through humans as they connect with one another socially. Memetics explains the systemic spread of values in society as social DNA in Graves' specific evolutionary sequence.
  • Muzafer Sherif, his wife Carolyn Sherif, and Carl Hovland's Assimilation Contrast Effect model[7] is grounded in social judgment theory. This model diagrams the level of ego involvement in information processing.[8]
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a leading researcher on positive psychology, was awarded the Clifton Strengths Prize ($250,000) in 2009 at the Gallup World Conference.[9] He is author of The Evolving Self and best known for his notion of the "flow", the state of deep focus that occurs when people tackle challenging tasks or those which interest them greatly.

Geopolitical applications

South Africa: Don E. Beck made more than 63 trips to

  • Don Beck's Spiral Dynamics Integral site
  • Center for Human Emergence

External links

  1. ^ "Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap", by Clare W. Graves, in The Futurist, 1974
  2. ^ "Charted Levels of Existence as seen by Clare W. Graves", in The Futurist, 1974
  3. ^ Spiral Dynamics: Mastering values, leadership and change, by Don Beck and Chris Cowan
  4. ^ The Integral Vision at the Millennium, by Ken Wilbur, specific to para. 17
  5. ^ "Second Tier vMemes", by M. Alan Kazlev, December 2009
  6. ^ Comparison of Graves/Spiral Dynamics with other key development models, webpage
  7. ^ Assimilation-Contrast Effect, webpage
  8. ^ Spiral Dynamics confab 2008, Beck presents the A/CE – Part II on YouTube, video
  9. ^ "Strength Prize honors 'flow' founder", American Psychological Association, Vol. 40, No. 5, 2009
  10. ^, O'Malley web page: "The National Peace Accord and its Structures", by Phiroshaw Camay and Anne J. Gordon, Co-operative for Research and Education (CORE), Johannesburg, South Africa
  11. ^ website, interview with John Hall, August 11, 1993
  12. ^ The Crucible: Forging South Africa's Future, by Don Beck and Graham Linscott, New Paradigm Press (1991)
  13. ^ Texas Legislature Archive Document 74R SR00901F, (proposal is #627)
  14. ^ "SA hosts key global gathering on sustainability and leadership", News release November 12, 2012
  15. ^ Globally Responsive Leadership Initiative, website
  16. ^ "The eight-stage spiral to peace in the Mideast", by Akiva Eldar, February 12, 2006, Haaretz
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Afoot with Don Beck in the Middle East", by Rafael Nasser, Integral Israel
  19. ^ "Don Beck and the New Face of Philanthropy", by Rafael Nasser, Integral Leadership Review
  20. ^ The Values Caucus at The United Nations, website
  21. ^ United Nations Values Caucus presentation, web page
  22. ^ Don Beck Addressing Gathering at the United Nations in 2007 on YouTube
  23. ^ United Nations Presentation Met With Great Success, videos and discussion
  24. ^ "A growing Spiral Dynamics influence in the Middle East", by Kieth E. Rice, Integrated SocioPsychology, August 22, 2009
  25. ^ Integral Options Cafe: Don Beck and Elza Maalouf, June 21, 2007, at the United Nations
  26. ^ Integral Leadership Review: Beck and Maalouf at the United Nations (June 21, 2007), plus ILR interview by Russ Volckmann
  27. ^ "6th convention Fateh's and the building of a nation", by Elza Maalouf, Common Ground News Service, August 20, 2009
  28. ^ "If This is America's Team, Woe Is America: The Cowboys' scandalous off-field behavior bespeaks a team that lacks a moral compass", by Peter King, Sports Illustrated, April 8, 1996
  29. ^ "Ethics, fan loyalty tested after Michael Irvin scandal grows darker", by Kevin Sherrington, The Dallas Morning News, July 1, 1996
  30. ^ "Cowboys' latest controversy feeds talk shows, tabloids", by Barry Horn, The Dallas Morning News, January 3, 1997
  31. ^ "NFL's Leader in Perception", by Kevin Sherrington, Dallas Morning News, as reported in the Sun-Sentinel, July 4, 1996
  32. ^ "After Atlanta, taking stock", by Ken Murray, June 11, 2000, The Baltimore Sun
  33. ^ magazine onlineInside Pitch, website
  34. ^ Vol. X, No. 1.Integral Leadership Review, January 2010, Includes "The Story Behind 'Invictus': Man Aided Team Now on Screen", by Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe, Thursday, December 24, 2009; and "CODA: Reflections on Power, Love, Don Beck and Rugby in South Africa", edited by Tim Glober
  35. ^ Formal recognition by Texas 74th State Legislature in May 1995
  36. ^ National Values Center, Denton, Texas, aka: Spiral Dynamics Group, website
  37. ^
  38. ^ Build Palestine Initiative, website
  39. ^ Adizes Graduate School commemorates Beck's 70th birthday, January 31, 2007
  40. ^ Presentations at Monterrey Tech and Cape Town University, reported by Adizes Graduate School News & Events, Fall 2012
  41. ^ Change State Indicator
  42. ^ Culture Scan: An Introduction to Spiral Dynamics See slide #13 of 16 for the Change State Indicator, Write Leadership Institute, 12-7-09
  43. ^ Culture Scan: An Introduction to Spiral Dynamics See slide #7 of 16 for the Culture Scan scoresheet image, and slides #10-16 for an overview of each section, from Write Leadership Institute, 12-7-09
  44. ^ Online PeopleScan website, operated by Christopher Cooke in UK
  45. ^
  46. ^ "The Master Code and Integral Politics in Polarized America", by Dr. Don E. Beck, Integral Leadership Review, March 2013
  47. ^ "The Master Code: Spiral Dynamics Integral: Lincoln and Polarization", by Don E. BPeck, Integral Leadership Review, January 2013
  48. ^ The Master Code: Spiral Dynamics Integral: The Integral Dance: How a Master Code Pollinates and Preserves the Culture of Bumblebees, by Don E. Beck, Integral Leadership Review, June 2012
  49. ^ Don Beck: In Quest of the Master Code on YouTube, at the Inside Edge Foundation, February 2012, video
  50. ^ "Don Beck: The Theory That Explains Everything" on YouTube, interview by Nicholas Beecroft, February 21, 2012, video, with written introduction by Beck 2-22-12
  51. ^ Don Beck at the Transformational Leadership Symposium on YouTube, November 20–21, 2009, video
  52. ^ A Better World, with Mitchell Jay Rabin, featuring Don Beck on YouTube, April 29, 2009, video
  53. ^ "Changing the World and Work", ABC National Radio (interview transcript) with Dr. Rachel Kohn, March 7, 2004


  • Spiral Dynamics Integral: Learn to Master the Memetic Codes of Human Behavior, by Don Beck (CD), 2006, ISBN 978-1604073171
  • Conversations with Great Thinkers and Practitioners of Our Times: Dr. Don Beck: Spiral Dynamics: A Challenge To Leadership, produced by Clearfire Media (DVD), 2006, ASIN: B000GGS0VE
  • Leap into the Future: Leadership for the 21st Century, with Andrew Cohen and Don Beck, produced by EnlightenNext (DVD), 2004, ASIN: B000O7SX12
  • Don Beck: In Quest of the Master Code, at the Inside Edge Foundation, February, 2012, video[49]
  • Don Beck: The Theory That Explains Everything, interview by Nicholas Beecroft, February 21, 2012, video, with written introduction by Beck 2-22-12[50]
  • Don Beck at the Transformational Leadership Symposium, November 20–21, 2009, video[51]
  • A Better World, with Mitchell Jay Rabin, featuring Don Beck, April 29, 2009, video[52]
  • Changing the World and Work, ABC National Radio (interview transcript) with Dr. Rachel Kohn[53]
Audio, video
  • 2014 foreword to the book Emerge! The Rise of Functional Democracy and the Future of the Middle East
  • 2013 foreword to the book MEMEnomics; The Next-Generation Economic System, September 2013.[45]
  • The Master Code and Integral Politics in Polarized America, by Don E. Beck, Integral Leadership Review, March 2013[46]
  • The Master Code: Spiral Dynamics Integral: Lincoln and Polarization, by Don E. Beck, Integral Leadership Review, January 2013[47]
  • The Master Code: Spiral Dynamics Integral: The Integral Dance: How a Master Code Pollinates and Preserves the Culture of Bumblebees, by Don E. Beck, Integral Leadership Review, June 2012[48]

Recent Writings:

  • Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change, by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan, 1996, 2005, Wiley/Blackwell, ISBN 1-4051-3356-2
  • The Crucible: Forging South Africa's Future, by Don Beck and Graham Linscott, 1991, New Paradigm Press, ISBN 0-620-16241-4

Additional books, audio, video, publications

  • The Values Test (1986-2002, National Values Center)
  • The Change State Indicator[41][42]
  • The Culture Scan[43]
  • Online PeopleSCAN.[44]

Don E. Beck has authored research instruments, including:

Research Instruments:

Two noteworthy academic audiences in 2012 included 400 leaders from Mexican Business Schools at Monterrey Tech, and a global academic conference at Cape Town University in South Africa.[40]

Recent Academic Work (2012-2013):

  • Adizes Graduate School (2000 – present)[39]
  • Adjunct Professor, Conoco Corporate University 1998-1999
  • Faculty, Communication and Business, University of North Texas (1961-1981) with short appointments with Counselor Education in the School of Education.

Faculty Appointments:

  • B.A. (1958), Abilene Christian University
  • Ph.D. (1966), The University of Oklahoma with concentrations in Communication and Social Psychology. Focus: large scale systems dynamics and change. PhD dissertation on the psychological forces that produced the American Civil War.


Education and academic work

  • The National Values Center in Denton, Texas[36] is the home of Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi), an online resource where publications and worldwide trainings are presented.
  • The Center for Human Emergence is a think tank that emphasizes the scientific understanding of cultures and their evolutionary context.[37] The Center is represented as a worldwide constellation of Value System Experts (VSEs) and Integral Design Architects (IDAs) who are helping facilitate the conscious emergence of the human species.
  • As senior adviser to The Center for Human Emergence Middle East, Beck and the Center's CEO Elza Maalouf founded the Build Palestine Initiative,[38] focused on the value systems alignment for a two state solution.

Beck has co-founded and founded a number of active initiatives:


Beck has consulted with a number of city agencies and governments. According to the Texas Senate recognition, he worked with the Denton Police Department, the Texas Department of Human Services, and the cities of Plano, Grapevine, and Colleyville to design creative solutions for pressing social and economic problems.[35]

Beck was also associated with organizations in the world of sports: He worked with the Dallas Cowboys, as reported in both Sports Illustrated[28] and in The Dallas Morning News[29][30] where he wrote a "Sports Values" column for many years. In interviews and in his published books Beck has also described his work with the New Orleans Saints,[31][32] his work as the Sports Psychology Editor for the Inside Pitch baseball magazine,[33] his consulting work with the Texas Rangers and with the U.S. Olympic Committee for Men's Track and Field. He also describes his work as team psychologist for The South African Springboks, winners of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and describes his role in the story behind Invictus.[34]

Beck presented to the United Nations, June 21, 2007, at the Values Caucus (to a full audience, standing room only) where he challenged the Security Council to adopt a new approach to global governance.[20][21][22][23][24] At the same event, Elza S. Maalouf presented a model called Palestine 21.[25][26][27]

Organizational Consulting: Don E. Beck has consulted to government agencies and companies like Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods;[19] and presented lectures, keynotes, workshops, and trainings around the world to diverse groups and organizations in Europe, the Middle East, Scandinavia, North America, South Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Each spring he hosts a Confab in Dallas, Texas.

Israel and Palestine: As reported in Haaretz (2006)[16] and in the Palestine Times (2007),[17] Don E. Beck had already been invited to many countries to present Spiral Dynamics by this time. Meetings and trainings hosted in Israel[18] led to an opportunity to speak to the Arab Governor of Bethlehem, Salah Al Taamari; three members of the Palestinian Legislative Council; and to present to 40 city council members, government employees, and professors from Bethlehem University. In 2008 more than 700 Palestinians came to train in Spiral Dynamics theory with Beck and his colleague, Elza S. Maalouf. The new Palestinian vision for the future included self-sufficiency and commerce, and there was no mention of a need for conflict with Israel, according to Maalouf.

This event was sponsored in partnership with the Globally Responsive Leadership Initiative,[15] a United Nations based world-wide partnership of companies, business schools and learning organizations "working together to develop a next generation of globally responsible leaders".

" Beck's spiral dynamics approach was the basis for the creation of the Peace Committees and subsequent CODESA process in the run up to the first post- apartheid elections in 1994."

Beck was invited to return to South Africa in November 2012, as a key presenter for the University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development Event "Africa Leads" on sustainability and leadership: Responsible Leadership for Africa and the World.[14] According to the University program announcement:

" for his invaluable contributions toward the peaceful creation of a democratic South Africa."

On May 3, 1995, both houses of the Texas State Legislature (Beck’s home state) adopted a resolution (S.R. No. 901) presented by the President of the Texas Senate which cites Beck’s lifelong interest in diplomacy. The legislative resolution commends Beck[13]


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